- A bookmark swag pack, winner’s choice of any Clean Teen Publishing eBook, and a $15 Amazon gift card.
Blood and Spirits
The Coming Storm Book One
Genre: Paranormal Thriller
Publisher: Booktrope Publishing
Number of pages: 220
Cover Artist: Shari Ryan
Small-town life can be hard for a dead girl…
For Veronica Fischer the night to night life of a bloodsucking madam in Middle America is tough enough before she adopts Rachel Gregory, an eight year old ghost.
After her house is set on fire and Rachel disappears, all signs point to foul play. When she finds herself with a hit out on her unlife and warrants for her arrest, it becomes clear she’s going to need help.
Now she has to contend with horny zombies, violent spirits, and murderous grave robbers if she’s ever going to find Rachel and discover the awful truth of the coming storm.
A raucous ride through the dangerous lives of the lecherous undead.
Book Trailer: http://youtu.be/95oy3Sxf370
I’m told it’s an oddity that I still sleep. It only comes in short bursts, no more than forty-five minutes at a time. Most others with my condition, and I have only known a handful, tell me they don’t sleep anymore. Some of them haven’t in more than five decades. I can’t imagine the hell that must be. Even in my brief moments of rest, I still dream and in that I find relief. Even if the dreams aren’t what I like, they are still an escape.
The soft thickness of my comforter envelops me as I relax back into bed. Before I’m completely awake, my mind begins to unfold, opening to the world around me. In the distance, the fog is rolling in off the river, dense and blanketing, its vaporous fingers right there on the edges of my consciousness. The night is cool, and the last lights of the dying day dance across my ceiling, reflected from the crystals hanging in my window. The light tinkle as they sway into each other is a reassuring sound; the beautiful prisms they cast, a blessing. Not one night comes that I don’t wake to thank Jules for having the windows in this house ‘treated’. I can actually see the sun, even if I can’t be out in it.
I am now completely aware for miles around me. I’m awake, and not even grudgingly so. Not tonight. He’ll be here soon. I look forward to it and fear it all at once, but I ask myself ‘why dwell on what we can’t change?’
A soft breeze blows across me as I slip out of my bed, making the hairs on the back of my neck stand out. My mind recognizes the sensation as a chill, even if my dead flesh can’t feel as it once did.
Rubbing a hand down from the base of my skull, in a futile attempt to warm myself, I open the lid to the old steamer trunk Julie brought up from the basement today. She aired out everything in it while I slept, and the interior smells as though she even put some of my perfume on a few of the choice garments. I breathe in deeply and can the corner of my mouth turns up slightly. Time may have dulled Jules’ scent, but it’s still unmistakable, mingled in with the fragrance in the clothing.
Clothes have always held memories for me. The crimson silk of a dress drops down over me and it’s as though his eyes were on me again. The mirror reveals the garment to be no more out of place, for its slinky cut or lack of length, than it did when I first wore it a lifetime ago, when I could still remember being a girl. I first put it on in front of him and twirled around to raise the hem, hoping to entice and astonish with my feminine wiles, foolish enough back then to believe that because I loved him, a creature like him was even still capable of love.
I’ve learned from his example and years of my own mistakes – emotion is a weakness to be managed.
Yet, here I am, slipping into this dress that I haven’t worn since he left, simply because I know he’ll remember it.
Stepping out into the thick evening air, the raw power of the river hits me with the force of a freight train. Even from this distance, the power is unmistakable. Tonight, though, it has an odd feeling, as though it were restrained.
Standing still with my eyes closed, I concentrate and listen to the pulse of the water rolling heavily over the rocky bed, feel the lapping, almost angry waves against the shoreline. I don’t know why closing my eyes helps me bond to my surroundings, it just always has. It must be another facet of my insanity.
I’ve never met someone with my affliction that was as sane as they had been when they were alive. I wasn’t ever all that sane, either, but I’ve grown more detached as time has gone by. Too often these days, I feel like a spectator. Maybe that’s just my ‘coping mechanism’. My therapist would love to know about this fabulous train of thought. Prick.
As I enter the garage, it occurs to me that I’ve only got two cars at this house. Frank was to take Julie back to town with the Charger this afternoon to keep up the appearance that everything was normal. I’m certainly not taking my old Volkswagen Beetle to go bar hunting, so the flat black Eclipse will get a work out tonight. I hate this car, but she’s been fast enough to outrun a lot of demons I didn’t feel like facing.
Pulling out of the driveway, I already wish I’d stayed at the other house today. The drive into town is only thirty minutes, but I’m tense enough tonight and don’t need the wait. Telling myself that I needed to be here, for safety’s sake, only makes me feel more upset at my fear and lack of control.
Six months ago, I’d have talked to Lucy; she’d have taken the edge off. If she were here, though, I’d have had no need to contact Jules. Now I get to feel like a failure and look like one, too.
The tires scream as I kick the car almost sideways, narrowly avoiding a deer. My lack of focus is getting worse. As much as the idea repulses me, tonight I’m actually going to have to go look for food instead of letting it come to me. I haven’t had to do that in years. On one hand, it’s a fitting start to the night, but on the other, I had really thought I’d outgrown eating out.
I always forget how much sensory input I lose when I spend time around all the steel and pavement. The dark moonless drive down rural roads is a blessing, putting me more in tune with the land, at once one with the leaves on the trees, the bats overhead, and the rocks around the base of the roadside.
The sound of the insects in the high grass is comforting. Their flittering finds my ears even over the engine noise. They are mine as much as everything else here; as much as I am a part of them. It took more than twenty years to reach this level of awareness, and I’m still not foolish enough to believe I’ve mastered it.
I used to be able to spend time expanding my mind. I used to do a lot of things I haven’t been able to do lately. Everything has devolved so fast and I’m still reeling.
The past year I’ve been so caught up in the life of a dead girl, I’ve dealt with little else.
Rachel died eighteen months ago at the ripe old age of eight; I met her after that. She was hanging around the Jefferson House, where my girls work. If she hadn’t picked that place to haunt, I doubt I’d be in the mess I’m in now.
The town springs up slowly. Houses begin to sit closer together, then nearer to the road. Side streets appear, and businesses start to intersperse among the spider web of tight residential development, obviously undertaken with no real planning or forethought. Then, at last, the glow of the streetlights tells me I’m back where I’m in control. This is the town I run, inside and out. Or I did.
Passing the street that leads to the Jefferson House, it takes will not to turn. I want to check up on things, but personal priorities come first and I have to trust Julie has everything well in hand.
The dulcet tones of a southern rock cover band blare from six blocks away tingling my eardrums. The music is louder than usual. It should be a fun night, or at least a packed house. Either way, I’m content.
The transmission voices its complaint as I downshift onto the access road. I’ll never really like this car, but she does get from A to B more quickly than most. I still wish I’d driven something nicer tonight, something with a top I could put down. But, in the end, the car I’m in is the least of my concerns right now.
The lot isn’t full yet, leaving plenty of good spaces, but rock star parking wasn’t really a concern of mine to begin with. This just means that after I eat and pick him up, I should be able to get back here to a manageable crowd.
If I’m lucky, he’ll want to be social tonight. If not, then I’ll be too busy to make it back here at all. I really want to show him that the biggest part of my life is still under control, so he won’t only see the little girl that has to call him in as her savior. Again.
Why do I need so badly for him to be proud of me?
As I cross the parking lot, the lingering scents of sweat, cheap beer, and longing hang heavy in the air already. This might be a little too easy. Though catching a fresh meal has never been really what I’d call difficult. That’s why the small town, Midwestern life suits me; I usually get what I want and rarely have to work that hard to have it. Hopefully, years of having my food delivered hasn’t left me too out of practice.
Someone sees me coming and opens the door and holds it for me. That’s the thing about being a regular in a small town rural bar – you are a known commodity, more or less. This helps and hurts when you have to hunt for food where you also gather socially. Like a balancing act. Some are good at it; some are not. Those who have been less than good at it around here, I’ve had to deal with. No one pisses in my pool even once and gets to do it again.
There’s a big cowboy at the end of the bar, a couple bikers near the pool tables, and a few burly construction workers at a table. After only the briefest pause, my route is clear in my mind. The first taker is my next victim. I really love playing this game. Maybe I’m not so rusty, after all.
I don’t get the chance to make it very far. As I pass the bar, in my peripheral vision, the dark brown of the cowboy hat moves in my direction.
“Now this is why I came out tonight. A good looking girl in tight fitting dress!”
The booming words come projected from the stout bear of a man standing at the end of the bar undressing me through his beer goggles.
The cowboy it is; he’ll make a full meal.
I do my best to fake a blush, while acting interested and offended all at once. Pretending to care what men think is an art. It takes moments to learn, but lifetimes to master. I’d like to believe I’m an expert.
I walk over to him smiling but with my eyes downcast. “My name’s Veronica. Who are you, handsome?”
He puffs up in his detail-stitched denim shirt, pushing out his barrel chest in a vain attempt to hide his well-tended gut. He’d be fairly good looking if he didn’t obviously take such pride in how good looking he thinks he is.
“They call me Buck, and if I could I’d like to do a lot more than buy you a drink.” he slurs slightly at me.
He motions to the bartender for another round and I do my best to blush again, this time giving a halfhearted laugh at his insipid comment.
“Here ya go, darlin’.” He hands me a Jägerbomb and tries to force it to my lips “Bottoms up, baby!”
He reminds me why I live in a small town; this corn-fed hick really thinks he’s irresistible. Well, who am I to disappoint? I down the drink like a good girl going bad, exhale deeply, and lean over into him, letting my neckline plunge as it was designed to do. As old and tired as this dance is, I really do love his eyes on me. Some things never change.
“Now, that was worth it, wasn’t it?” he asks me proudly. “Buck won’t steer ya wrong.”
“We can go somewhere more private if you’d like…Buck,” I whisper softly in his ear, pulling back almost as slowly as the wicked grin spreads across my face. His perverse smile hides nothing. I have him now – hook, line, and zipper.
Money changes hands as we exit the bar. I laugh a little out loud while remembering the lack of faith I’d had in my abilities. I try to lead him to my car, but he’s intent on going to the alley behind the building. I try to convince him, sliding my hand slowly down over the large oval belt buckle with his name on it. But he’s convinced the alley is what excites him, and I don’t want to take the time to change his mind so I follow along.
It begins subtle and playful, but it’s clear that’s not what he’s in the mood for. He pushes me down onto my knees in a matter of seconds, quickly wrapping a hand in my hair and beginning to jerk my head back and forth violently.
He couldn’t hurt me if he tried so I let his game continue on his terms. Using my mouth like a cheap sex toy is a bit insulting, I guess, but I don’t need to breathe so I’m not gagging or choking. As always, I’m here to get what I need, and so I’ve gotten used to allowing them what they need. I look at it like my public service, or my good deed.
I could just take what I want and be done, but that generally leads to more problems than I want to deal with. I’ve even grown bored with the games of superiority and subservience. I let them feel dominant, and powerful. It’s the least I can do, really. Besides, the heightened state of arousal makes them taste better, even if most of them could use a lesson in hygiene.
It’s been so long since I did this in public. It might even be a little exciting if I weren’t so anxious, or if Buck were more attractive.
I’m only vaguely aware of the fact that he’s calling me a dirty whore. A little laugh flitters inside that he would call me dirty; the irony is lost on him but not me. I’ve almost completely tuned him out, focused on the job I’m here to do.
And then he makes a mistake; he hits my face, hard. If I were still alive, it would have done some damage, broken bone, maybe even knocked me out.
This isn’t playful anymore – this bastard actually likes to hurt women – now, I’m done playing.
I pull back slowly from him, looking at his fist wrapped around what looks like a roll of quarters. He’s using every ounce of strength and leverage he has to try to hold me on my knees. He has no more effect holding me down than the weight of my clothes. His eyes begin to widen and he lets go of my hair as I rise slowly and determined. His fist is still drawn back, but we both know he’s not going to swing. I’m going over all the painful ways I can drive home the point that he doesn’t get to hurt the girls he plays with, all the while considering how much I love this dress and don’t want to ruin it.
Standing in front of him I wipe his liquid from the corner of my mouth and stare deeply. I can see the panic in his eyes. I can smell his fear, deep, rich and growing, and for the first time tonight, I’m actually aroused.
“Now, Buck, what could possibly have made you think that was a good idea?” I ask in a cool and controlled voice.
“Get back on your knees whore! I ain’t paying you to fucking talk!” He spews the words out loudly, in a vain attempt to regain control as he tries to force me back down with one hand, while still menacing with his fist. He only succeeds in ripping my dress.
Not this dress, not tonight. He’s decided it for me; tonight is the end of his story.
“I’m used to the rough stuff, Buck.”
In an instant, I have his throat in my hand and his back against the wall. He’s beginning to shake as he draws back to swing.
“I was just going to let you off with a little pain and a warning about hurting working girls, and look what you’ve done.”
The fear pours off of him in waves as I disregard his raised fist and calmly show him my torn dress. It’s enough to make even my body react involuntarily to the stimulation. “You want a pretty girl to throatfuck, you pay for it. We’re all good. You like it a little rough, that’s fine. But slapping a girl around hard enough to actually hurt them? We just don’t do that, Buck. You’re incredibly lucky I don’t bruise easy.”
I flash him a smile and for just a moment I can see he thinks it’s all going to be okay.
“We had a perfectly good deal worked out, and now you’ve ensured that I’m the last thing you’re gonna see, and given me the extra work of dealing with your corpse.”
He shudders and wets himself.
It really is dirty how hot this has gotten me. I’ll blame it on my state of mind, certainly not wanting to give this bastard any credit.
I peer deeply into his eyes, and his mind unfolds to me. I see all that he had planned for me; I know all that is ‘Buck’. The last restraint I had left is gone. He’s from out of town, no one here knows him, and only his trucking company will miss him.
I apply just a touch more pressure, and with a flick of my wrist, he goes limp. I let go and he crumples to the ground in a heap. Quick and painless is better than he deserves, but I’m pressed for time.
I drink from him what I need and leave him piled up behind the dumpster. At least he’s served his purpose, even if he was more trouble than I’d planned on.
Why this dress? Any other dress he could have ripped and he’d still be breathing. Clearly, I’m too stressed out.
I dial my cell and wait, more than a little irritated when I get voicemail. “Frank, you really need to call me back. I have a pick up for you and it’s time sensitive. Remind me again why I keep you on payroll?”
I walk back up to the end of the alley and wait for my phone to ring. The straps on the left shoulder of the dress are ripped completely out of the back and there are two deep tears where they had been attached. This is what happens when you have to rush. Things don’t go as planned, and then shit gets broken.
“Can I help you with that?”
His voice is steady, soft, and scares me almost out of my skin. This is why I pay him so well.
I turn to face him and am a bit taken aback to see him dressed in jeans and a wife-beater. He’s never this down-dressed, even when I tell him to be.
“Not with my dress, but you can wrap that up,” I fume, nodding my head back down the alley to what remains of Buck. “And make it disappear.”
Frank O’Leary looks like what a Greek god should look like. Chiseled out of stone; an example of everything that makes a man attractive. His mane of auburn hair, always perfectly messy, hangs down between his shoulder blades. Like all men who look this good, Frank has no interest in women. He also has very few morals, a deviously creative mind, and an unequaled love for money. That serves to make him an irreplaceable asset. I keep telling myself I can never trust him completely, but he’s too smart to bite the hand that pays for his lifestyle.
Also, despite my attempts to keep him at arm’s length, I’ve grown attached to him over the years.
He stares, one eyebrow raised, at the boots jutting visibly out from behind the dumpster and nods. “Any particulars on how he disappears or just ‘out of sight out of mind?’”
“Just make it fucking happen, Frank! I don’t have time for bullshit tonight!” As soon as the words escape me, I’m aware they’re harsher than he deserved.
The look on his face says it all. He understands. He’s not happy about it, but he knows why I’m stressed and he’ll accept it for now and hope that things will get better.
“He is coming in tonight, then?”
“Should be here in about an hour.”
I really have to get back to the old me, and soon. I know better than to kill this close to where I go to relax. I know he knows that, too. It felt good to destroy that piece of shit, and save generations of women from having to deal with him, but I still know better.
Frank looks down the alley again, then back to me and holds out a set of keys with a silver skull keychain. He knows me too well. I take the keys to the Charger and hand him back the ones to the little flat black speedster.
“How much gas does she have?” he asks, still looking down the alley, sizing up the job.
“You need to get some.” I call back at him, already walking toward the emerald-green muscle machine. “You’re on fumes.”
He’s muttering under his breath as I get in, but his voice is less than a whisper and it gets lost under the deafening roar of the engine coming to life. I put the top down and back her out slowly while checking my watch. Not much time left.
I leave the lot and the mess behind me, able to count on Frank. I have to get to the airport, and make sure everything is secure before his plane lands.
The Vampire Genre in Modern Media and Me
By Dennis Sharpe
Okay, so I’ll admit it. My name’s Dennis and I am a vampaholic. I’m a fan of the vampire genre, in movies, in books, in general. Likely, I’m a bigger fan than I should be. I just really like the story possibilities; the variations of the mythos that the genre provides. Near Dark, Fright Night, and Let The Right One In, are on my list of favorite movies.
From Once Bitten to the Twilight saga, Vampire Hunter D to True Blood, Dracula to Vampire Academy… there are portrayals of fanged creatures in almost every medium and media type. You can watch them, listen to them, download them, read them, collect them, and dress like them. Some of these I enjoy and some I really don’t care for. I’m opinionated like that.
Sometimes a genre can be so present in our culture, so pervasive, so inescapable, so everywhere that certain plot devices or story points start to stand out. So much so, that they become mind-numbingly predictable. With some of those things, you just have to chalk it up to “a symptom of the genre”; but some others are, let’s be honest here, crutches. They’re overused and overdone.
With vampires, you know what you’re getting into. There’s going to be blood, fangs, darkness… and lately, high school. Personally, I blame The Lost Boys for that last one, and no matter how much I love that film, I do not love the centuries old pedophile stories it’s helped produce. We all know that teenage girls are unfathomably complex, and that even a man (or woman) who has lived for millennia – as a vampire does – might not be able to truly understand and appreciate the intricacies that make them up… but come on. Let’s be real. You’ve lived all that life and now you want to go to the local high school… you know, with the all the kids, you’re sure to find romance there. Because that isn’t creepy at all. No! It makes total sense.
I mean, I know that romance sells, and I know that a large share of the media marketplace is young and in school (or enjoy reading the stories that are set there), and further still, I will acknowledge that female readers are a vast group. All of that makes sense. I get it. I do. But isn’t it even a little creepy that a guy as old (or older) than a girl’s grandparents can just drop into life at random, into her classroom… and then into her pants… er… I mean heart? Why doesn’t this hit more people?
I would like to believe that if I were alive for centuries I wouldn’t have a lot in common with a fifteen or sixteen year old… not enough to base a relationship on, anyway. Just me?
See, I think the problem is that the overall concept of vampires that people are using as their jumping off point today seems to be the Bram Stoker vampire. Don’t get me wrong, Stoker was a pro. I reread his Dracula before I sat down to write Blood & Spirits, first because I wanted to see what was done so right in that work that it kept spawning retellings, and second, so that I could take anything from it that didn’t remind me of Twilight. Honestly, the second part wasn’t that difficult.
In Dracula, the vampire, this classic monster – the main antagonist – is a predator whose survival is dependent on consuming the blood (or the essence) of human beings. Totally evil thing, right? The catch is that he’s rich and can be young and hot.
Where did that lead us? Our modern vampires, the ones that became the most popular anyway, aren’t just blood thirsty predators and/or the creatures of the night. They aren’t monsters at all. They’re perpetually, immortally even, model hot people with a drug problem… it’s just that their drug is blood. No biggie, right? And even when they are gritty and dark they are still funny, or sexy, or both. Don’t believe me? Look at Colin Farrell in Fright Night. Hell, look at Bordello Of Blood or From Dusk Till Dawn.
Strength or weakness, I decided that I wanted to embrace both the sexy and the monster. I had a vampire story, dozens of them actually, kicking around in my head and I wanted to tell my story with those things (and without the high school stuff), but I wanted to make the monster a real person… a real adult person. Someone with people to care for, someone with people counting on them, someone with emotional connections and supernatural issues who still had bills to pay. Joss Whedon almost did that with Angel. Almost. I just wanted my monster to be a monster, be sexy, and still have to pay her utilities. Is that so wrong?
See, I think Stoker did a lot of the heavy lifting for the storytelling. He depicted Dracula as the undead. Check. He gave him the power to control human minds. Check. He gave him the ability to shape-shift. Check. Vampires even came with built in weaknesses: fear of the cross (which I thought was silly), holy water problems (also silly), no reflection (what?), and an inability to withstand sun or fire (duh, what creatures can?). All I really had to do was give them real problems on top of the paranormal ones, make them relatable… humanize them, ya know, and figure out a way to explain vampirism quasi-scientifically that I was going to be okay with for the span of several stories. Easy peasy! Right?
Then came Veronica. She showed up in my head, telling me her tale, running her brothel in a little rural town in Kentucky with a ghost as a mentor, raising a little ghost girl as her daughter, and having to put up with other stuck-up bloodsuckers and zombies on top of that. To be honest, she was kinda hard to contain inside the shell in which I’d already decided I wanted to tell my story. But somehow I managed to sort it all out and Blood & Spirits happened. I wrote it with two other books (Distant Thunder and Driving Rain) in mind – a three act play. Now, well now, I’m in the fray. I’m creating inside the modern pop culture bazaar that is the vampire genre. It’s been a wild ride, but now I’m publishing with Booktrope, and I feel like I’m writing the kinds of stories that I want to read. Best of all, it seems that V and her motley band are finding their readers. So, it’s on to darker and more awful things…. more tales to tell. Right? Right! Vampires, ghosts, and zombies… oh my!
5 ebook copies of Blood and Spirits
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Born and raised in the middle of the American Midwest, Dennis Sharpe has been a writer as long as he can remember. His mother has told many people about the fantasy and science fiction stories he’d write on scraps of paper, and staple together as his ‘books’, before he’d attended his first day of formal education.
He has spent many late nights at diners and dives, drinking coffee with a tattered notebook to put a voice to his feelings of himself and the world around him, and other worlds that can exist only in fiction. The voices in his head don’t ever stop talking to him, and so sooner or later he has to get out onto a page all that they’ve filled him up with.
Inspired by Neil Gaiman, Kurt Vonnegut, Frank Miller, Chrissie Pappas, Charles Bukowski, Stephen King, Issac Asimov, and countless classic literary influences, Dennis continues with the ability to write what at a glance might seem absurd, but quickly begins to resonate with our own thoughts and emotions. He writes people we know, love we’ve known and lost (and found again), and places we’ve been in our lives and in our heads. Even his fictional characters and worlds carry enough of the grey areas we experience in day-to-day life, to let us find the truth in his words, no matter how fantastic.
These days he can be found still writing, drinking coffee with friends, or spending time with his children (the true joys of his life), in Western Kentucky.
Today I’m featuring a box set by author Imogene Nix. Enjoy the wonderful excerpts.
Although the war is over, there are still pockets of resistance in the Federation—those who would do anything to destroy the fragile peace they’ve fought for and won. The members of the Ito family have all fought in their individual ways, but will the battle demand further sacrifices and pain?
Renjiro Ito and Selina Codecko were forced apart during the war. When they meet five years later, the passion between them flares hot, but betrayal could exact a high price.
Kumi Ito and Carmichael Snow must find those who have conspired to damage Reunion financially while fighting to stay alive and ignoring the fire that burns between them.
Tomi Ito and Gillian Edgemont have held the political arm on track, but when she’s accused of the ultimate betrayal only Tomi can save the woman he’s loved for years.
Content Warning: this book contains hot, sexy scenes, butt-kicking heroines, and strong, hunky heroes
War’s End Excerpt:
“Sit down.” Renjiro’s terse words filled Selina with pain and sadness.
She acceded to his request in silence, holding her throbbing hand against her breast. He squatted before her, his face close to hers, his dark eyes shadowed. His touch was gentle as his fingers traced the line of her jaw. They shook a little and she felt the glancing caress. It warmed her.
He touched a raw spot on her chin and she hissed involuntarily.
“Where else are you injured?”
Selina shook her head.
“Captain Codecko? Selina?”
His gentle words nearly undid her. Tears burned in her eyes and she blinked, hoping to banish them. It didn’t work though. They dripped down her face, scalding her frozen cheeks.
Now his hands dropped to her shoulders. “Where else are you hurt, Selina?” His gaze was hypnotic. It drew her words without thought.
“My hand, ribs, and the top of my head.”
He frowned and started tugging at her shirt, pulling it free of the loose-fitting pants.
“What… What are you doing?”
He glanced at her, his face taut and strained. “I’m checking your injuries.”
The Assassin Excerpt:
The small craft Carmichael and Tomi traveled in approached an imposing tower, slowing and dropping to the plascrete surface with a slight bump before rolling to a stop in an empty bay. The doors opened and both men climbed out.
A man approached, and Carmichael guessed he was maybe fifty. He’s carefully preserved, he thought, noting the impeccable gray suit and discreet adornments. He wasn’t tall, but his black hair sprinkled with silver was as immaculate as his clothing. In his uniform, Carmichael felt crumpled before the picture of sartorial elegance. No doubt this was the kind of man Kumi appreciated. He pulled himself up short. He wasn’t there to further his relationship prospects. He had a job to do.
“Madam Kumi is expecting you, Senator. Your friend, however…” The man frowned slightly as he indicated with his perfectly manicured hands toward the seating area.
“He is with me.”
The man nodded, but his eyes narrowed. “She has requested privacy for your meeting.”
Tomi moved through the doorway and Carmichael shadowed him. “Thank you, Dobry.”
Carmichael filed the name away. Never know what will be the piece of information that will solve the puzzle.
Once inside, the door closed with an audible snick. Behind a large wooden desk overflowing with files was Kumi. As elegant as ever in a silver-gray suit. Kumi wasn’t a tall or large woman, but with her golden toned skin and tip-tilted brown eyes she drew the eye. Her short, dark hair was worn in a bob that framed her pixie-shaped face.
She looked soft. Womanly. He also knew she had a spine of pure steel. He’d already seen it in action the night he’d
squired her at the commitment ceremony.
She smiled as she rose. “Well, Tomi. Whatever this is, it had better be good.”
Carmichael noted her bare feet with a grin.
Kumi obviously noticed him and his quick glance. She came to a standstill, frowning before stepping in his direction, then stopped in front of him. Her gaze dipped to her feet and she blushed the most charming pink tinge along her high cheekbones. “Oh, dear. Do forgive me, Captain.” She wiggled the toes which peeked out from under her long, flowing pants.
“There is nothing to forgive, Madam Kumi.” He watched her fluid movements and admired her curves. She was sleek and lithe, and his body tightened at the thought of what lay under the light silk jacket.
Executing Justice Excerpt:
Tension rose in the cabin, thick and heady. The rescuer plunged into the cold waters. A harness was handed over and gripped while the officer dealt with the other. From the movements, Gillian could tell that the person was panicked. Slowly, the first harness rose and she could tell it wasn’t Tomi, as the person had long hair and bare legs. She sucked in a breath as the second person in the water was assisted into another harness, then he or she rose with the rescuer. Even though she craned, the outline of the officer obscured her view. She sucked in an unsteady breath, clenched her hands together, and waited.
When Gillian was sure she could last no longer, the door opened with a bang. She quickly looked up, anticipation sizzling along every nerve ending.
There in the doorway was Tomi, wet and shivering, but very much alive. In his arms was a woman, bedraggled and dirty, but he held her so tenderly that any hopes or dreams Gillian harbored melted away. There was never any hope for her and the feelings that burned in her chest.
Without a word, Gillian turned away and fought the sting of tears in her eyes. She noted the sounds of joyous reunion between brother and sister, but she kept her gaze averted, to give them privacy, she piously told herself. When the pilot ordered them strapped in, she breathed a silent sigh of relief. She knew that this torture, him being so close but now forever so far away, would come to an end sooner rather than later.
Just as she was sure she’d be spared, Tomi spoke. “Gillian, thank you for coming to find me.”
The clog of tears filled her throat, but she managed to croak, “It was nothing.”
“It means a lot to me.” He reached out and touched her hand, and she bit back the gasp that rose.
Nerves in her hand jumped and thrummed, but she ignored them. “Honestly, I’m just pleased I could help.” She glanced in his direction, taken aback by the directness in his gaze before the woman beside him shuddered. He scooped her closer and Gillian turned away.
Buy Link: Beachwalk Press
~About the Author~
Imogene is a mother of two, compulsive reader, and bookstore owner. She lives in regional Queensland, Australia with her husband, two daughters, dog, cats, guinea pigs, and chooks. She has a particular fondness for vampires, star ship captains, and things that go bump in the night (especially vampire types).Imogene has tried many varied roles in her working life including kindergarten assistant, teacher, principal, and kindergarten and child care director, but rates owning a bookstore and writing her own novels as the absolute highlight.In her mother and wife alter ego, she has travelled widely and lived in some very unique places including Far Western Queensland, Cape York, and even Tasmania. She loves to travel and rates China and Hong Kong among her favorite destinations.She blames Star Trek Voyager, Firefly, and the works of
Today I’m featuring Wild Violet by Vivian Winslow. I’m reviewing yet another book from this great erotic romance author so continue reading for more information on the story, author, and my thoughts about this new installment to the series.
The Vi Trilogy, #1
The Gilded Flower Series, #7
Genre: Erotic Romance
Wild Violet is the first installment of The Vi Trilogy of the Gilded Flower Series. Appearing in The Lily and Dahlia Trilogies of the Gilded Flower Series, Violet Rai, or Vi, is Lily and Dahlia Baron’s sharp-witted BFF, who is always up for a party and a hot guy. But, in The Dahlia Trilogy, there are hints that Vi’s world is quickly coming apart, and her dark secret is about to be exposed.
In this flashback story, Vi, the strikingly beautiful daughter of an Indian business magnate and English supermodel, is enjoying a privileged lifestyle in New York City while a college student at NYU. Yet, in her senior year, Vi learns that her strict and traditional father intends to force upon her an arranged marriage and a career working for his conglomerate in Dubai. When Vi is paired with sexy Spaniard, Andrés Costas, in her ballet class, not only does she find herself falling for him, but he introduces her to a shockingly different world—one that offers her the prospect of escaping her father’s plans, but at a price.
Sweat drips down Vi’s chest as they finish the barre work. Despite every window being open, there’s no respite from the heat for the dancers who pack in the two adjoining studios. Even in the summer, the class is full of people trying to keep up their skills for possible auditions, with the exception of Vi who does it because it’s one of the only times she’s able to feel happy and free. She takes in the mix of people as she gulps down her water—men and women, mostly in their twenties, although some teenagers who look like they could be ten years-old, the majority of them beautiful, and all of them with absolutely gorgeous dancer bodies. She tosses her water back into her bag and takes her place in front of the mirror.
“Today, half of you go there,” the instructor says in a thick French accent, making a slicing motion with his arm to divide the class and pointing to the other space. The dancers move obediently. Monsieur Renard appears to be about sixty-five and has perfectly coiffed silver hair that goes well with his perfect posture. Despite being dressed in pants and a collared shirt, he doesn’t have a drop of sweat on him. “The rest of you will be paired off. Pas de deux.”
Vi searches the room for a partner. This isn’t what she signed up for today. She likes M. Renard’s class because he demands perfection and complete control from his dancers. Every position, hip movement and alignment always has to be just right. It forces her to focus, to allow her thoughts and self-doubt to melt away and for those ninety minutes to just be. But it’s too late to leave. She doesn’t back down from a challenge.
“Mademoiselle Rai,” M. Renard points to her. “Why are you not with someone? Or is your partner invisible?” He chuckles and turns to talk to the pianist.
She smiles back and with her hands on her hips says, “Seems no one finds me worthy to be his partner. Perhaps you would like to be my partner, Monsieur Renard.”
He smiles and laughs, revealing yellow teeth stained from cigarettes and coffee. “Mademoiselle Rai, if I were younger, I would have you for a partner and you would not forget that experience.” He approaches her and says, eyeing her up and down, “Malheureusement, my youth is gone and the women along with it.” Not taking his eyes off Vi, he reaches out toward the right with his arm and snaps his fingers. “Monsieur Costas. Dance with Mademoiselle Rai. You are both beautiful. You will fit well together.”
Pointing to the girl who was originally paired with him, M. Renard instructs her, “You go dance with the others.”
Vi glances over at her new partner gliding toward her, ignoring the dirty look from the female dancer.
As soon as he reaches her, he places his hands on her waist and says, “You’re the lucky one who gets to dance with me today.”
She chuckles as she moves her feet and arms into fifth position. “The same can be said of you, Monsieur Costas.”
After devouring the Dahlia Trilogy from the Gilded Flowers series, I was more than happy to get into Wild Violet. I’m happy to inform I was not disappointed.
Vi, as her friends call her, is such a complex character. Yet, she’s so likable. In the Dahlia Trilogy I wasn’t sure what the deal with her was. Or what mysteries hid behind the outspoken English gal. Thankfully, Wild Violet begins to ease us into Vi’s life and a things changed rapidly for me.
To be honest, I wasn’t sure whether I liked her or not in the previous books, but in Wild Violet, I begin to see a new side of her. What appeared to me as a snobbish exterior is really a defense mechanism. She’s not as rough around the edges as I found myself believing, and instead, she’s a strong-minded, iron-willed woman with a lot to prove to herself, and her jerk of a father.
As I’ve come to learn with the Gilded Flowers series, we often meet hot, sexy, passionate guys the girls end up hooking up with, but my absolute favorite so far has to be Andres. Yes, I know he comes with his package, and his line of work is not something I’m too agreeable with, but damn if he didn’t warm his way into my heart.
At first, when Violet met him, I thought nothing positive of his personality, but he grew on me. Okay, so I had the wrong impression of him in the beginning, thinking he was some kind of childish stalker or something, but as their interaction progressed, I realized he was anything but juvenile. Quite the contrary, actually. He turned out to be so sweet, and, in some ways, so good for Violet. Slowly, his easygoing, attentive, sincere, and swoon-worthy persona hit just the right nerve with me. Next thing I know, I’m secretly hoping Andres and Violet will end up together—indefinitely.
While I might not get the happy ending I’m hoping for between these two characters, I’m so glad I indulged in this story and yes, I cannot wait for the next book to come out to continue on where Wild Violet left off.
Looking forward to more of Vi, and her set of fervent gentlemen.
Vivian Winslow was born and raised in Southern California. Before becoming a writer, she made a career out of moving around the world every couple of years thanks to her husband’s job. She currently lives in New York City with her husband and two elementary school age children, and is grateful to finally have a place to call home for more than two years. New York is the perfect city to indulge her love of shopping, the arts and especially food. If she’s not at home writing or running around the city with her kids, you’ll most likely find her indulging in pizza on the Lower East Side or having a cocktail at her favorite bar in Alphabet City. That said, she’s still a California girl at heart and would gladly trade in her heels for a pair of flip-flops to catch a sunset on the beach.
“No. Brian, you’re really pushing your luck. I have limits. I don’t want some wayward teenager telling me to fuck off in my own house. I’m not her father. I’m a film director. I have work to do. Storyboards to prepare, scenes to plan out. I have to stay on top of the shooting schedule, liaise with my assistant director, my lighting cameraman—Jesus, what the fuck? I don’t have time to deal with some drug-addicted, attention-seeking, Cristaldrinking brat!”
ARIANNE RICHMONDE IS THE USA TODAY bestselling author of STOLEN GRACE and the Pearl Series books: Shades of Pearl, Shadows of Pearl, Shimmers of Pearl, Pearl, and Belle Pearl – all full length novels. The first three books in the series are also available in one trilogy bundle/box set as The Pearl Trilogy. She has also written Glass- a provocative short story and most recently, the highly acclaimed suspense novel, Stolen Grace.
She lives with her husband and coterie of animals in France. She loves to travel and meet people and is thrilled that her books have touched readers from all parts of the globe.
Arianne Richmonde is giving away one print set of the Star Trilogy to one lucky winner during the tour. Enter the rafflecopter below for a chance to win.
Title: Broken Bonds
Author: Karen Harper
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Format: Hardback, Paperback, Kindle
Purchase at AMAZON
Haunted by the past…
Cold Creek is a place with a dark history, especially for the Lockwoods. Now adults, the three Lockwood sisters are still recovering from the events that led to the destruction of their family when they were children. Determined to move forward, Tess and Kate are making fresh starts, ready to put bad—even deadly—memories to rest and settle happily in the small but booming town. And they’re hoping their older sister, Charlene, can do the same.
Char is back in town seeking comfort as she figures out her next move. A social worker used to difficult situations, she soon runs afoul of some locals who think she’s sticking her nose where it doesn’t belong. She’s certain something sinister is being covered up, and when she witnesses Matt Rowan being run off the road, she knows she’s right.
Working together, Matt and Char figure uncovering the truth will be dangerous, but living in Cold Creek won’t be safe for any of them until its secrets are revealed.
As she made the next sharp turn, Char gasped. A white truck with Lake Azure, Inc. painted on its side was tipped nearly off the cliff, right where the school bus stopped for the kids who lived above. She’d heard a horn honk long and loud a few minutes earlier. Maybe the truck missed the last turn and spun out, since its rear, not its front, was dangling over the edge, propped up by two trees. No other vehicle was nearby to help.
She put her emergency blinkers on and pulled as close to the cliff face as she could. She jumped down from her truck and ran across the road toward the truck. A man was inside!
“What should I do?” she shouted, her voice shrill. It sounded like a stupid question. She had to get the man out of his truck before it crashed over the edge.
The bitter, strong wind ripped at her hair and jacket. What if a blast of air tipped him off? Or maybe even if he moved. She’d swear the two tree trunks that held his truck were shaking as hard as she was.
She could hear the engine was still running. The driver opened an automatic window.
“A guy in a truck shoved me off,” he shouted. “Meant to. I don’t have any traction. I’m afraid if I shift my weight or open a door to jump out, I’ll send it over.”
The fact someone had done this on purpose stunned her. What was going on? If her cell phone worked up here, she’d call her brother-in-law, the county sheriff, for help, but she was on her own. It wouldn’t help to go back up for help from Elinor and Penny.
“Don’t move until I get something you can hang on to if the truck goes. I have some jump ropes I can tie together. Those trees are shaky.”
“I’m shaky. Hurry!”
She ran to her truck and knotted together the three jump ropes she had, tying square knots because she knew they would hold. But she’d never be able to balance the man’s weight if the truck went over the edge.
“I’ve got ropes here, but I’ll have to tie the end to a tree. I don’t dare drive close enough to you to tie it to my truck. It would never stretch that far.”
She knotted it around the trunk of a pine tree that looked sturdy enough, though that almost took the length of one rope. This wasn’t going to work.
A grinding sound, then a crunch reverberated as the truck seemed to jerk once then settled closer to the cliff edge.
“Now or never!” he shouted and opened his door fast.
Other books in the trilogy include:
“Harper, a master of suspense, keeps readers guessing about crime and love until the very end.” –Booklist, starred review on Fall from Pride.
Publication date: 8/26/2014
Series: Cold Creek Series , #1
Format: Mass Market Paperback
“Masterfully drawing the reader in, Harper has delivered the best, once again.” –Suspense Magazine on Upon a Winter’s Night.
Publication date: 10/28/2014
Series: Cold Creek Series , #2
Format: Mass Market Paperback
A New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, Karen Harper is a former college English instructor (The Ohio State University) and high school literature and writing teacher. A lifelong Ohioan, Karen and her husband Don divide their time between the midwest and the southeast, both locations she has used in her books. Besides her American settings, Karen loves the British Isles, where her Scottish and English roots run deep, and where she has set many of her historical Tudor-era mysteries and her historical novels about real and dynamic British women. Karen’s books have been published in many foreign languages and she won the Mary Higgins Clark Award for 2005. Karen has given numerous talks to readers and writers across the county.
Her latest book is the romantic suspense, Broken Bonds, the third book in the Cold Creek Trilogy.
For More Information
- Visit Karen Harper’s website.
- Connect with Karen on Facebook.
- Find out more about Karen at Goodreads.